Hey Look, A Guardian Columnist Stole Our Justin Bieber Jokes (updated)

On Friday, a Guardian columnist wrote a blog post called "Justin Bieber: an Old Person's Guide." Sounds familiar. We wrote the same post nine days earlier: "The Justin Bieber Guide for Old People." Updated with Hyde comment.

Back on March 19th, we penned the humorous field-guide to the mop-topped tweeniebopper taking Twitter by storm. When we were alerted to the existence of Guardian columnist Marina Hyde's identically-premised piece from March 26th, we thought it was a happy coincidence: Two writers on either side of the Atlantic took the same funny angle on Justin Bieber. If anything, we were happy to have come up with the same idea as someone much more famous and successful than us. (She was once sued by Elton John for a column; and she wrote a book; she has a Wikipedia page!) But no, it's pretty obvious that Hyde managed to rip off three of our jokes in just 676 words. See for yourself:

On Bieber's YouTube Stardom

OUR JOKE

Bieber is in fact the first real YouTube sensation to cross over to the mainstream, and much of his appeal comes from this grassroots creation myth. (No, Susan Boyle doesn't count since the only people who enjoy her sincerely are you Old People.)

HER JOKE

Put briefly, Justin's story is this: he is Canadian, comes from good Christian stock, and he's the first genuine YouTube sensation to cross over into mainstream pop stardom. (Unless you think Susan Boyle is a popstar, in which case, how old are you?)

On Bieber's Twitter Dominance

OUR JOKE

Perhaps you have experienced the phenomenon of logging into Twitter to see what brands of wine your friends are drinking only to be confused by the fact that "Justin Bieber" is a trending topic. He almost always is, for no reason except that every eleven year-old girl on Twitter appears to only tweet about Justin Bieber. (And everyone else is tweeting "Who the hell is Justin Bieber?")

HER JOKE

The fact of the matter is that Justin Bieber is always trending. He's the canary in the coalmine of spring/summer 2010 social networking, and if you suddenly don't see his name up there, I wish you best of luck with your Rapture arrangements.
My non-scientific research tells me that one half of Justin's Twitter traffic is caused by excitable tween girls cyber-fainting, while the other half is caused by people asking, "Who is Justin Bieber?"

On Bieber's Mall Riot

OUR JOKE

Last November, during a scheduled appearance at a Long Island mall, a riot broke out among the 3,000 attendees when Bieber wasn't allowed to perform because of safety concerns. A handful of fans suffered minor injuries and an Island-Def Jam VP was arrested for not tweeting that the show was off. Yes, Old People, it's time to wake up to our scary new world where a YouTube sensation has supplanted social justice as the only reason anyone riots, and you can be arrested for not tweeting. Welcome.

HER JOKE

This week, Justin's manager, Scott Braun, surrendered to police for failing to warn the star's fans about overcrowding at a shopping mall CD signing he staged in Willston Park, New York, last November, in which five people were hospitalised. State police say the minute it became clear the gig was overcrowding, they asked Braun to tweet fans telling them the gig was cancelled. But he refused, even changing Justin's account password so "he could control the event", and the abort mission instructions only appeared on the site two hours later. "By refusing to send out the cancellation Tweet and preventing others from doing so, he blatantly ignored police directives," rages the DA – and Scott now faces up to a year in jail if convicted.

Do you see, oldies? Human civilisation has just notched up the first case of a man being arrested for failure to tweet. This is Justin's world now – you're just living in it.

There are only two explanations for these similarities: 1) Our original post was so funny that it exhausted all Bieber-related jokes in the Universe and Hyde was forced to repeat them almost verbatim; 2) she ripped us off.

Now, we believe that jokes are not really "owned" by anyone. They exist in the cultural ether—small nuggets of funny truth that writers can only hope to grasp long enough to make a reader laugh. This is why we do not use the "P" word. But, seriously, Hyde: Write your own damn material. They weren't even very good jokes!

Or if you insist on ripping other writers off, please consult our new guide:

The Marina Hyde Guide to Not Getting Caught Stealing People's Jokes

DON'T: Make the headline of your piece almost exactly the same as the one you're ripping off.
DO: Go fuck yourself.

Update: Hyde has responded! Her argument is convincing. We are 93% convinced she did not knowingly repeat our jokes, and hereby renounce our suggestion that she fuck herself. Her argument: She promises she did not read our original post. She did not write the headline. The joke-matching was a series of unfortunate coincidences. We both hit the same obvious jokes in the same way. It's a long email, and it's too ungodly an hour to do anything but show you the words Hyde uses to explain the similarities:

She did not read our post

I have just read your post and I can well see why you think there was a similarity, though I am afraid it is genuinely a coincidence. I know this primarily because I honestly did not read your blog post. I promise you.

On the Headline:

I agree the headline is extremely similar but because I work for a newspaper and this is the way we still do it, I don't write the headlines on anything I write, ever. A sub-editor does. That was dreamed up by someone completely different after my piece had been filed to them. If you'd like I can get you their name today and you can check it with them.

On Bieber's YouTube stardom

As for the point about Susan Boyle, my original copy read "Put briefly, Justin's story is this: he is Canadian, comes from good Christian stock, and he's the first genuine YouTube sensation to cross over into mainstream pop stardom." When I had written it, someone said to me "but what about Susan Boyle?", and I realised not mentioning her would undermine the point, so I added the quickest line I could think of to clarify. I agree it makes the same point as you, but frankly there are only two really successful mainstream YouTube crossovers that I know of, and one of them is Justin Bieber and one is Susan Boyle (who as I say I'd forgotten about, but obviously isn't a popstar). I think the joke was really, really obvious, but coming under the headline "an old person's guide" that the editor chose for my piece, it creates an impression of ripping you off that is misleading.

On Bieber's Twitter dominance:

The point about Justin Bieber always trending on Twitter would be a luminously obvious one to make to anyone writing a piece about who he is – his name is up there twice among the trending topics every single time you visit the Twitter front page. Gazillions of people will have noticed this. The joke about half of Twitterers asking "who is Justin Bieber" came simply because very time I write about someone whom a certain section of Guardian readers would regard as culturally infra dig, there will be people who respond by posting "who is [whoever]?" beneath the column to make their sniffy point (and you are very welcome to trawl through my back catalogue to verify this). I knew they would do it more than ever on the Justin Bieber front, so I was looking for a way to head that off and came up with this.

On Bieber's mall riot

Finally, the point about being arrested for not tweeting. I hate to break it to you but you are WAY from the the first one to think of that. I remember reading about the mall incident in November, when it happened, in a variety of places. The Huffington Post's headline, among very many others, was Man Arrested For Not Tweeting. The point was made endlessly. I see you said it was a "scary new world" - the reason I said "this is Justin's world now" was a very lame (on my part) skew on the old "It's Frank's world – we're just living in it". I'm afraid I frequently rehash that old Sinatra line in copy.

She says nice things

In the end, your post appeared before mine and in my view is much funnier than what I wrote. In fact, the bits I found far funnier were the many things I didn't think of, and were I in the business of nicking jokes I would have taken other ones entirely.

On us telling her to "Fuck off"

I think it might have been reasonable to ask me to respond before you posted inviting me to fuck myself, but perhaps you might now consider appending my response to your original post?

The whole dang email

hello Adrian - I have just read your post and I can well see why you think there was a similarity, though I am afraid it is genuinely a coincidence. I know this primarily because I honestly did not read your blog post. I promise you. I can obviously see why you would think it similar in the three instances you have picked out, but the only similar piece I read was a Popeater post entitled "Dummies Guide to Justin Bieber – what's the fuss?". But let me address your points one by one.

I agree the headline is extremely similar but because I work for a newspaper and this is the way we still do it, I don't write the headlines on anything I write, ever. A sub-editor does. That was dreamed up by someone completely different after my piece had been filed to them. If you'd like I can get you their name today and you can check it with them.

As for the point about Susan Boyle, my original copy read "Put briefly, Justin's story is this: he is Canadian, comes from good Christian stock, and he's the first genuine YouTube sensation to cross over into mainstream pop stardom." When I had written it, someone said to me "but what about Susan Boyle?", and I realised not mentioning her would undermine the point, so I added the quickest line I could think of to clarify. I agree it makes the same point as you, but frankly there are only two really successful mainstream YouTube crossovers that I know of, and one of them is Justin Bieber and one is Susan Boyle (who as I say I'd forgotten about, but obviously isn't a popstar). I think the joke was really, really obvious, but coming under the headline "an old person's guide" that the editor chose for my piece, it creates an impression of ripping you off that is misleading.

The point about Justin Bieber always trending on Twitter would be a luminously obvious one to make to anyone writing a piece about who he is – his name is up there twice among the trending topics every single time you visit the Twitter front page. Gazillions of people will have noticed this. The joke about half of Twitterers asking "who is Justin Bieber" came simply because very time I write about someone whom a certain section of Guardian readers would regard as culturally infra dig, there will be people who respond by posting "who is [whoever]?" beneath the column to make their sniffy point (and you are very welcome to trawl through my back catalogue to verify this). I knew they would do it more than ever on the Justin Bieber front, so I was looking for a way to head that off and came up with this. That was why I did the "your ignorance only makes him stronger" stuff. And the reason I thought of this was because in the Popeater piece I read, they quoted a Conan O'Brien tweet which said "I just learnt that retweets of my Bieber tweet mentioning Bieber actually help Bieber. Bieber, you're a worthy foe. Bieber."

Finally, the point about being arrested for not tweeting. I hate to break it to you but you are WAY from the the first one to think of that. I remember reading about the mall incident in November, when it happened, in a variety of places. The Huffington Post's headline, among very many others, was Man Arrested For Not Tweeting. The point was made endlessly. I see you said it was a "scary new world" - the reason I said "this is Justin's world now" was a very lame (on my part) skew on the old "It's Frank's world – we're just living in it". I'm afraid I frequently rehash that old Sinatra line in copy.

In the end, your post appeared before mine and in my view is much funnier than what I wrote. In fact, the bits I found far funnier were the many things I didn't think of, and were I in the business of nicking jokes I would have taken other ones entirely. So I can also see how you might think I had ripped you off, but I can honestly tell you I didn't, and I hope the above points have gone some way to convincing you of that. If they haven't, feel free to call me and I will gladly continue to try do so.

I think it might have been reasonable to ask me to respond before you posted inviting me to fuck myself, but perhaps you might now consider appending my response to your original post?